Benjamin Rapoport is working on fuel efficiency for marathoners

October 25, 2010

Most marathon runners know they need to consume carbohydrates before and during a race, but many don’t have a good fueling strategy. Now, one dedicated marathoner — an M.D./Ph.D. student in the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology — has taken a more rigorous approach to calculating just how much carbohydrate a runner needs to fuel himself or herself through 26.2 miles, and what pace that runner can reasonably expect to sustain.

The result is a new model, described in the Oct. 21 issue of the journal PLoS Computational Biology, which allows runners to calculate personalized targets using an estimate of their aerobic capacity.

The Harvard-MIT scientist, Benjamin Rapoport (former Hugh Hampton Young fellow), was inspired by his experience in the 2005 New York Marathon. As he entered Manhattan for the last several miles of the race, his legs just didn’t want to keep up the pace. He was experiencing a common phenomenon among marathoners, known as “hitting the wall.” Essentially, the body runs out of fuel, forcing the runner to slow down dramatically.

Continue reading the article in the Harvard Gazettephoto by Justin Ide

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